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Monday, October 25, 2021

Low turnout at ‘Old Joe’ statue protest

Generic Old Joe
Generic Old Joe

Unsure of whether it was the rain or the short notice that caused a low turnout, six Gainesville residents met for about 20 minutes Wednesday evening to protest the delayed relocation of the “Old Joe” Confederate statue.

Standing at the corner of East University Avenue and North Main Street, the 112-year-old statue, which depicts a Confederate soldier, first came under fire in 2015.

Following the fatal shooting of nine black church parishioners by a white man in Charleston, South Carolina, last year, some Gainesville residents asked the county to remove the statue, which is located next to the Alachua County Administration building.

But it has yet to be relocated.

“It’s been a long, continuous process,” said Shirley Roseman, who organized the event for the Alachua County Peace Coalition. “Everyone has personal opinions about what they think should happen to it, but we mostly just want it out of the heart of downtown.”

The first suggested move was to the Matheson History Museum, but the museum declined to take it, citing the high cost associated with the move, so the decision was stalled.

Undeterred by Wednesday’s low turnout, Roseman urged the county to continue its effort. The next step would be proposing to move it to the Veterans Memorial Park, she said.

She said the hardest part about finding a new home for the statue is the cost. City officials estimate it will cost about $36,000 to move it.

“Since it was put there back in the day using private money, the city wants it to be moved using private money,” she said. “They want the money to be fundraised.”

Melissa Munkel, a nurse at UF Health Shands Hospital, said she feels that in a town that prides itself on being progressive, Old Joe sends the opposite message, especially during a time of heightened racial tension.

“With everything going on these days, it needs to be placed somewhere where it has context, not in Gainesville’s ground zero,” the 29-year-old said. “I’ve never liked it. I think it’s absolutely absurd.”

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